David Schumacher, the news anchorman for WJLA Channel 7, makes his living in television but plays in radio.
Schumacher and two other business associates own a 3,000-watt FM radio station in Rehoboth Beach, Del..
This month, Schumacher announced another step in the growth of his emerging media empire: the purchase for $400,000 of WXUA and WZFM, both in Charles Town, W. Va., center of the fast-growing Jefferson County area.
WXUA is a 5,000-watt AM station and WZFM is a 3,000-watt FM. The two stations are housed in the same building in Charles Town but are programmed separately.
Schumacher has shared the ownership and oversight of the Rehoboth Beach station--WGMD at 92.7--with Joseph Giuliani and Gene McCoy since July 1980. Giuliani is an architect, McCoy a manufacturers' representative, and both run their own businesses based in the District.
Schumacher got involved in the radio business through McCoy. The two met at a luncheon where Schumacher was speaking 2 1/2 years ago.
McCoy then introduced Schumacher to Giuliani and the three men began searching for a radio station to acquire that was within driving distance of Washington.
They settled onthe station in Rehoboth Beach because of the potential the Sussex County market had for radio, Schumacher explained. Along with 10 limited partners, the three men bought the station for $300,000. An additional $20,000 was invested in new equipment.
The partners also increased the station's staff from five to 14 employes. "We now have the people we want there," McCoy says.
Since Schumacher and his associates bought WGMD, its advertising sales have more than quadrupled, from $80,000 per year to $350,000. Schumacher says this is about the only way to measure the success of the station statistically, since no radio station ratings are available for WGMD's market.
The marketing strategy behind WGMD's success emphasizes serving the year-round residents of Rehoboth, rather than focusing on the transient resort crowd.
"You get mesmerized by all the people on the beach," Schumacher says. "But we've tried to go for the year-round market."
He estimates that the year-round radio audience numbers about 100,000, while the beach crowd ups the potential market by 200,000 to 300,000.
WGMD airs "middle-of-the-road" material: adult music, news, local sports, and community-oriented public affairs programming.
Other stations in the area offer rock and country music, Schumacher says. By providing more community-oriented programming, he says the station has been able to capture the loyalty of the local audience.
As testimony to the success of the strategy, he says people in Rehoboth now refer to WGMD as "our station."
The station is beginning to sell some air-time to Washington area advertisers interested in reaching vacationing Washingtonians on the beach. One of the stronger selling points for this type of advertising, Schumacher notes, is the cost per person reached. A 30-second spot on WGMD costs about $10, significantly less than air-time for stations in the metropolitan area.
The TV news personality and his associates believe the 25 percent annual growth in the size of the year-round market on the shore should help the station continue to post gains in its radio-advertising sales.
"We're quite well-positioned," he says, pointing out that "we've done that even in the face of a recession."
Schumacher says they plan to apply the strategy they used in Rehoboth to their newly acquired properties in Charles Town, which they selected after scrutinizing more than 20 different radio stations in the mid-Atlantic region.
Jefferson County, he says, is growing at a 42 percent annual clip and the market is ripe for the kind of community programming that has been successful with the local audience in Rehoboth.
The group expects to assume control of the station in about two months, pending approval of the license transfer application by the Federal Communications Commission.
Schumacher, who spends about 10 to 15 hours a week on what he calls an avocation, says he has a lot of future plans for his radio business. He and his associates are interested in buying more radio stations near Washington and may eventually invest in stations in other regions of the country.
"We're going as fast as we can," he says.
Schumacher says he is investing in radio because he believes it will survive the technological advances in communications which he thinks are likely to eventually put much of the print media and some of the commercial television industry out of business.
"I guess we believe in old-fashioned radio," he says.